Order and material traceability are important in any kind of industrial space. In the past, tracking focused on packages being shipped to a customer, but internal tracking is just as important. Improving traceability helps your business in many ways. Traditional systems involve a lot of paperwork and checklists and can be an extremely time-consuming part of a worker's day. End-to-end traceability is a goal of many companies but has historically proved hard to fulfill. Today, however, new ways to improve traceability are beginning to emerge in the business world.
New technology is starting to fill this gap with automated systems that use RFID or Bluetooth chips to trace parts and supplies as well as warehouse equipment. Bluetooth chips have the advantage of a longer range.
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There are a number of benefits of these new automated systems that can help improve traceability:
Knowing how to improve traceability allows companies to improve putting-away and picking processes and greatly enhances the recall process. However, the biggest advantage is the large amount of data generated that allows a company to know exactly how well their processes are working and where improvements can be made. This does require a lot of data processing, but technology has now reached the point where AI can handle this easily.
Over the past few years, the use of RFID tagging has expanded beyond the automotive industry and across a variety of use cases. It became popular early in the healthcare and aerospace industries. High-frequency RFID was most commonly used, but UHF tagging is starting to come into use because those chips tend to be smaller and cheaper.
Bluetooth has a high advantage for certain applications in that it has a longer range. Bluetooth is used for active tagging, although the expense of the beacons means it's generally used on assets. However, newer beacon and tag systems are now cheaper than active RFID tagging.
Essentially, Bluetooth beacons are used to create a grid and tags track the position of assets and objects within the grid. Bluetooth Low Energy tags are cheaper and can be used to track parts and orders. For example, each pallet in the warehouse can be tagged and the system will record what was put on the pallet and where that pallet needs to go. The order can then be tracked onto the truck, and GPS tracking used to track the vehicle all the way to delivery. Some companies still prefer to use RFID tags for orders because those tags are so cheap there is no need to worry about tag retrieval. For most purposes, though, the higher cost of the Bluetooth tags is overcome by the much lower cost of readers (in many cases employees can simply use their phones).
The biggest advantage of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology is an increased range. Reading an RFID tag requires that you bring a scanner close to the tag, which is time-consuming. This makes it a much better system for real-time tracking, as the gridded beacons can read the tags automatically and constantly without any input from employees. Tags can be used to track the movement of assets (including employees) through the warehouse constantly, and the higher range means they can also be used outside in loading areas and parking lots. However, real-time tracking systems also require AI support.
Thus, these systems are linked to AI software designed to analyze real-time data and, for example, highlight bottlenecks where a production or shipping process is causing the entire system to slow down. AI support eliminates the time spent analyzing data and reduces that managers have to spend studying trends so they can work out how to improve the process and give employees better support and knowledge.
Simon is one such AI tool and it offers the following features (among others):
AI systems can learn the patterns of your workplace and alert you when something is out of place. Simon can integrate with third-party applications including ERP and human resource systems to provide data to everyone in the company who needs it. Alerts can be sent via email or an employee's phone. Bear in mind that although ERP and MRP systems are amazing, they still require manual inputs and some systems still involve physical paperwork. With Simon, everything is automated and all data is generated through sensor and location data. MRP systems are not inherently granular, automatic, or real-time, but they can be integrated with the data provided by Simon for a complete solution.
If you are looking for a real-time tracking system to improve traceability, reduce time wasted by employees, and offer better monitoring of processes, then contact us to schedule a demo of our Simon AI. With Simon and Bluetooth Low Energy tagging you can build a system that will help you meet the standards of order and material traceability your company and your customers expect.